Time to kick habit rather than just pass it on

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette.

Puff, puff, puff!

And if you smoke yourself to death,

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate

That you hate to make him wait,

But you've just got to have another cigarette!

-- Phil Harris, 1947

It wasn't just the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, who told us smoking was bad for us.

Athletic coaches for generations have ordered team members to lay off cigarettes.

Sixty-three years ago Phil Harris made a ditty on the subject his theme song.

In recent years, laws curbing smoking in public places have multiplied across the country.

States, Washington included, have collected billions of dollars from tobacco companies for the damage smoking causes and used it to spend their way out of one financial difficulty after another.

So, it should come as no surprise to tenants of Keewaydin Plaza and Sunnyslope Homes in Kennewick that they only have until Sept. 1 to crush their smoking habit or vacate their apartments.

If not for their own health, they must do it for the health of others who may live with them or for those who mayfollow them in the apartments.

New rules adopted by the Kennewick Housing Authority board make it so.

They are good rules, with plenty of time for the tobacco-addicted already in residence to either reform their ways or move out.

The new smoke-free rule takes effect Feb. 1, requiring current residents to sign new leases agreeing to the rule by March 1.

But current residents also can sign an exemption that will allow them to smoke in their rooms until September. After that grace period, though, they will have to quit smoking or move.

Some of the tenants feel the new rules are unfair.

We can sympathize with them, but we cannot agree with them.

Smoking is so bad for the smoker and so bad for anyone getting secondhand smoke in every lungful of air, that the rights of the addicted individual must give way to the rights of the majority.

After all, we are talking cancer here.

"We are being isolated and mistreated simply because we are handicapped," said Caroline Aldridge, a former resident of Keewaydin Plaza, who said as a former smoker she sympathizes with those who still have the habit.

Board member Laurie Tufford said she wanted to make the smoke-free rule as easy on the residents as possible.

"This has really caused some havoc at Keewaydin. They are very passionate about this," Tufford said.

Many residents are older and apparently have spent much of their lives surrounded by clouds of tobacco smoke.

If it is difficult for them to break the habit, they should be willing to admit that their continuing in theiraddiction is a signal to young people that smoking is really OK.

It isn't.

The Kennewick Housing Authority, in its desire to make things go smoothly for current residents, has done no favor for those who will follow them.

Or the taxpayers.

Fumigation, repainting and recarpeting may very well be necessary to make some apartments habitable again.

Care and concern always are appropriate sentiments.

These residents are being given another year to make a change in a habit that they have known was bad forthem.

For their entire lives.